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Assembly Member James C. Ramos was live at California Indian Nations College

California Rep. James Ramos is hosting this roundtable at California Indian Nations College in Palm Desert. The tribal college is working to gain federal accreditation and become one of the more than 30 such tribal higher education institutions in the US. California, which has a high Native American population, does not currently have a tribal college.

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Morongo Gives Away 13,500 Free Turkeys at 35th Annual Thanksgiving Outreach Program

Tribal members and volunteers help package some of 13,500 free turkeys that were given away by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians.

The Tribe’s three-day turkey distribution provides nearly 275,000 holiday meals to families, seniors and veterans in need across Southern California. MORONGO INDIAN RESERVATION – The Morongo Band of Mission Indians is gave away 13,500 free turkeys this week to non-profit groups, churches and charities across Southern California as part of the Tribe’s 35th annual Thanksgiving Outreach program. The turkeys donated this year will provide nearly 275,000 holiday meals to families, seniors and veterans in need. Since the program’s creation, Morongo has given away nearly 160,000 turkeys, which in turn have provided an estimated 3 million holiday meals. “Over the past 35 years, Morongo has remained committed to helping others to provide hope and opportunity to those in need, and that assistance is especially important this year in light of the acute challenges that have left so many families struggling,” said Morongo Tribal Chairman Charles Martin.

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Riders, Ropers Kick Up Some Dust at Morongo’s Annual Rodeo

Riders competed for thousands of dollars in prize money and a shot at qualifying for the BFI Open Team Roping during the Oct. 9 free rodeo at the Morongo Indian Reservation.

MORONGO INDIAN RESERVATION, CALIF. – Amateur and professional ropers and riders competed for cash prizes at the 8th Annual Morongo Open Ranch Rodeo, a free, family-friendly event held on Saturday, October 9 at the Morongo Indian Reservation.

Riders competed for thousands of dollars in prize money and a shot at qualifying for the BFI Open Team Roping during the Oct. 9 free rodeo at the Morongo Indian Reservation.

MORONGO INDIAN RESERVATION, CALIF. – Amateur and professional ropers and riders competed for cash prizes at the 8th Annual Morongo Open Ranch Rodeo, a free, family-friendly event held on Saturday, October 9 at the Morongo Indian Reservation.

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Morongo Celebrates 30th Annual Thunder & Lightning Powwow

Competitive dancers and drum groups from across the U.S. and Canada honored ancient songs and dances of Native American tribes.

Morongo Indian Reservation – The beauty and rich traditions of Native American dancing, art, and music were celebrated at the 30th Annual Morongo Thunder & Lightning Powwow, held over three days beginning on Friday, Sept. 24.

To mark its 30th anniversary, the annual powwow hosted by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians was held outdoors under a large, open-sided tent set above a packed field that had served as the powwow grounds in early days of the event.

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Morongo Awards $20,000 in Scholarships to Two Native American Students

The Annual Rodney T. Mathews Jr. Scholarship has awarded more than $525,000 to Native American students, the most underrepresented group in higher education.

MORONGO INDIAN RESERVATION – Two Native American students from California have each received a $10,000 scholarship from the Morongo Band of Mission Indians near Palm Springs as part of the 16th Annual Rodney T. Mathews Jr. Scholarship Program.

Since its launch, Morongo’s program has awarded more than $525,000 to 53 Native American students attending universities across the nation. The scholarship program is open to enrolled members of any of the more than 100 federally-recognized tribes in California.

“Morongo is proud to offer the Rodney T. Matthews Jr. Scholarship to help reverse the trends that have left Native Americans as the most underrepresented group in colleges and universities,” Morongo Tribal Chairman Charles Martin said. “We look forward to this annual opportunity to support outstanding Native American students as they pursue a higher education to improve themselves and the future of their tribal communities.”

The 2021 recipients are:

  • Britney Vargas of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel is pursuing a B.A. in Elementary Education at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo.  The recent graduate of Julian High School in San Diego County served as Native American Club Secretary, was a three-sport athlete and class secretary. Ms. Vargas also holds the title of Miss Julian 2020-2021 and was the previous Teen Miss Julian. She has logged over 650 in volunteer community hours during high school. Her goal is to develop a curriculum that teaches Native American culture to elementary school students in hopes of preserving Native American heritage for future generations.

“I think it’s absolutely amazing that the Morongo Band of Mission Indians does this for kids like me and other kids who struggle financially,” Vargas said. “I am just so grateful that I even had the opportunity to apply for the scholarship. This will help me pay for my books, meal plan and a dorm room, and allow me to focus on my studies.”

  • Sasheen Shailee Colegrove Raymond of the Hoopa Valley and Yurok Tribes is working towards her PhD. in Global Leadership and Change at Pepperdine University. She currently works at Humboldt State University’s Social Work Department where she assists rural and indigenous communities. She also helps Native American students navigate the educational system and cultivates relationships with local tribal agencies to increase internship placements. Through her studies, she plans to continue to conduct research and data collection to assist Tribal communities and inform policy decisions.

“I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and that Morongo continues to support the Native community and Indian country because ultimately I feel it’s an important piece for all of us to be able to contribute back to our communities,” Raymond said. “This scholarship lifts such a huge burden off my shoulders, and I am truly thankful from the bottom of my heart.”

American Indians and Alaskan Natives comprise less than 1% of the nation’s college students, the lowest college enrollment rate of any ethnic group, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Similarly, only 15% of American Indians hold bachelor’s degrees, fewer than any ethnic group in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The scholarship program honors the late Rodney T. Mathews Jr., a Morongo tribal member and Hastings Law School graduate who passed away in 2004 after serving as a judge pro tem for more than a decade.

Scholarship applicants are considered based on their academic success and community service.  Candidates must be full-time students at an accredited college or university; complete 60 hours with a designated California Indian agency; and be actively involved in the Native American community.

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Morongo tribe partners with Southern California Edison on upgrade to transmission lines

Tuesday, July 20, 2021
By Amanda Ulrich

The Morongo Band of Mission Indians plans to use existing Southern California Edison power lines, a section of which cross its reservation in Banning, to help connect solar, wind and battery resources to the regional power grid.

Morongo partnered with the utility company to develop and finance part of an upgrade to the transmission lines, the tribe reported in a press release Monday.

Morongo Transmission LLC, a partnership between the tribe as majority owner and a New York-registered investment company called Coachella Partners LLC, will operate the project. SCE was able to gain new rights-of-way across the Banning reservation, according to the tribe, while Morongo Transmission LLC was permitted to lease a percentage of the project’s transfer capability.

In return for financing a portion of the project alongside SCE, the tribe will “share in the proceeds” of the transmission lines, Morongo spokesperson Phil Southard said.

Morongo said in the release that it is the first Native American tribe in the country to be approved as a participating transmission owner, or an entity that owns or operates power lines.

“Morongo is honored to be making history once again as the first tribe in the nation to be a participating transmission owner,” said Charles Martin, the tribe’s chairman.

“Our tribe has a deep connection to the environment, and the agreement by Morongo Transmission to lease capacity on Southern California Edison’s newly upgraded system will further that legacy by delivering green energy resources to the Southern California power grid.”

Morongo’s involvement is part of a broader effort from SCE to deliver more renewable power to the Southern California region.

The partnership falls under Southern California Edison’s West of Devers Upgrade, a project several years in the making that replaced nearly 50 miles of aging power lines between a substation near Palm Springs and San Bernardino.

The project tripled the system’s capacity to transmit power generated by renewable resources to major population centers in Southern California, according to the tribe. Those specific renewable energy projects, like solar farms, are located in more eastern parts of Riverside County, Imperial County and outside the state. Southard added that none of the renewable energy sources are located on the Morongo reservation.

Southard did not have specific figures on Monday for the project’s financial impact on the tribe.

In February, the Board of Governors for the California Independent System Operator approved Morongo Transmission’s application to join the nonprofit, a first for a federally recognized tribe. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission then finalized all necessary approvals to allow operations by Morongo Transmission earlier this month.

Elliot Mainzer, CAISO’s board president and CEO, praised Morongo and SCE in February “for their creativity and flexibility in developing an innovative ownership structure that enables this critical transmission project to proceed,” the press release said.

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Morongo Becomes First Native American Tribe to be Approved as a Participating Transmission Owner in Nation

Monday, July 19, 2021

The tribe’s majority-owned partnership will use newly upgraded Southern California Edison transmission lines to connect solar, wind and battery resources to the regional power grid.
The Morongo Band of Mission Indians near Palm Springs, California, has become the first Native American tribe in the nation to become a participating transmission owner as part of a new project that will help California meet its green energy goals.

In early July, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) finalized all necessary approvals allowing operations by the Morongo Transmission LLC, a partnership between the Morongo Band of Mission Indians as the majority owner and Coachella Partners, LLC, a subsidiary of Axium Infrastructure.

FERC’s action follows a February approval by the California Independent System Operator (Cal-ISO), marking the first time a federally recognized tribe has received a designation as a participating transmission owner.

“Morongo is honored to be making history once again as the first tribe in the nation to be a participating transmission owner,” said Morongo Tribal Chairman Charles Martin. “Our tribe has a deep connection to the environment, and the agreement by Morongo Transmission to lease capacity on Southern California Edison’s newly upgraded system will further that legacy by delivering green energy resources to the Southern California power grid.”

The agreement is part of SCE’s West of Devers Upgrade Project which replaced four circuits of aging high-voltage power lines along a 48-mile existing corridor that stretches from the Devers substation near Palm Springs to Grand Terrace and San Bernardino.

The project, which crosses the Morongo Indian Reservation west of Palm Springs, tripled the system’s capacity to transmit power generated by solar, wind, and battery resources in eastern Riverside County, Imperial County and outside California to population centers in Southern California at no increased cost to ratepayers.

Approved by the CAL-ISO in 2011, the project supports California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard and greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.

Completed in May 2021, SCE spent nearly 24 months the existing transmission lines with high-capacity conductors on new, stronger towers, designed to increase power flow by 3,200 megawatts (MW).


Morongo partnered with SCE to develop and finance the three-fold upgrade (1,600 MW to 4,800 MW) to the transmission lines. As part of that agreement, SCE obtained new rights of way across the Reservation and granted Morongo Transmission, LLC the option to lease a percentage of the project’s transfer capability in return for payment of a pro rata percentage of the project cost, sparing SCE the need to fund the entire project.

FERC’s action follows the February 2021 decision by the Cal-ISO Board of Governors to approve Morongo Transmission, LLC’s application to join the ISO. At that time, Elliot Mainzer, ISO’s Board President and CEO, commended Morongo and SCE “for their creativity and flexibility in developing an innovative ownership structure that enables this critical transmission project to proceed.”


The West of Devers Upgrade Project will help bring more renewable energy to communities in southern California. Photo: Southern California Edison

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Morongo Tribal Chairman Robert Martin Retires After 30 Years of Storied Leadership

MORONGO INDIAN RESERVATION – Tribal Chairman Robert Martin, a nationally recognized and respected leader in Indian Country who guided the Morongo Band of Mission Indians near Palm Springs, CA for three decades, will retire from tribal government, effective July 1.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my journey as I worked with our Tribal Council, our membership and leaders in all branches of governments to advance self-reliance and tribal sovereignty,” said Robert Martin, who decided not to seek reelection in June after six consecutive terms as chairman. 

“I’m proud of the great progress our tribe and our Tribal Council have made together during my tenure as we created new economic and educational opportunities for our members, our region, and all of Indian Country,” Robert Martin said. “I am confident that the next generation of tribal leaders will continue the important work of advancing tribal sovereignty.”

Elected to his first term as chairman in 1983, Robert Martin served a total of 18 years as chairman and another 11 years on the Morongo Tribal Council spread across the next four decades.

Charles Martin, no relation to Robert Martin, was elected as the new Morongo Tribal Chairman and will be seated July 1. He has served 12 years on the Morongo Tribal Council. Born and raised on the Morongo Reservation, Charles Martin is deeply committed to service and leadership within the tribe. His career in both tribal leadership and business development has been characterized by a strong work ethic leading to career experience in numerous fields including public safety, entertainment and organizational management. 

“Hardworking, engaging, and entrepreneurial, Chairman Robert Martin’s leadership transcended generations and cultures,” said Charles Martin. “He is an inspiration and a role model for tribal leaders everywhere, and we look forward to benefiting from his continuing wisdom and counsel for many years to come.”

During his time in tribal leadership, Robert Martin helped lift Morongo from generations of crushing poverty and neglect into the economic and cultural powerhouse it is today. A consummate diplomat, Robert Martin’s warm nature, deep insights and calming demeanor in the face of challenges were the hallmarks of his steady leadership.

“Chairman Robert Martin has – and will continue to be a pillar in Indian Country,” said California State Assemblymember James Ramos. “Chairman Martin serves as a role model for so many of us and I thank him for his teachings.”

Robert Martin grew up on the Morongo Reservation, helping his family raise cattle. A lifelong resident of the San Gorgonio Pass, he graduated from Banning High School, studied business at Mt. San Jacinto Community College and worked as a contractor and homebuilder before entering tribal government.

A fierce champion of self-reliance, Robert Martin led Morongo when the tribe joined with the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians to block state and county officials from shutting down the desert tribes’ high-stakes bingo and card parlors in 1986.

That struggle led the Morongo and Cabazon tribes to secure the landmark 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision that confirmed the sovereignty of Indian tribes across the nation, and their right to establish gaming operations. That watershed decision fueled an economic and social renaissance that brought roads, clean water, housing, health care, jobs and education to reservations across the U.S.

“There were some in Indian Country who told us to quit because they thought we were risking too much,” Robert Martin recalled years later. “Some thought we should be content with modest bingo halls and small card rooms. But I felt the issue was too important to give up.”

Robert Martin oversaw construction of the original Casino Morongo in 1994 and, 10 years later, the development of the $250 million Morongo Casino Resort & Spa. The towering 27-story resort remains the tallest building between Los Angeles and the Arizona border, and was expanded in 2020.

Under Robert Martin’s leadership, Morongo also diversified its business portfolio with new ventures in finance, health care, manufacturing and retail. Today, Morongo’s business enterprises generate nearly $3 billion annually in regional economic activity and provide over 2,500 jobs, making the tribe one of Riverside County’s largest employers.

The tribe’s successful businesses fund Morongo’s vital tribal government services for its members, including healthcare, public safety, fire protection, education, and social services.

“Without a doubt, Chairman Robert Martin was instrumental in setting Morongo on a path of financial stability and economic success that will benefit generations of tribal members for years to come,” said Riverside County 5th District Supervisor Jeff Hewitt.

From meetings at the White House to offering testimony before the U.S. Congress, the California State Legislature and the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, Robert Martin worked closely with city, county, state and federal lawmakers on a multitude of issues including economic development, land use, water, energy, education, the environment, transportation and tribal gaming.

Robert Martin’s devotion to protecting tribal sovereignty and Indian culture led him to fight for the rights of Native children, driving Morongo to join other tribes, state attorneys general and child welfare organizations in defending the Indian Child Welfare Act against a 2018 court challenge.

A passionate defender of Morongo’s rich culture and tribal traditions, Robert Martin remains deeply committed to developing future tribal leaders. He helped establish a tuition-free college preparatory academy at the Morongo Reservation – the first of its kind in the nation – and ardently supports college scholarship programs to help tribal youth secure a higher education.

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Morongo’s Fire Chief Retires After Long, Distinguished Career

Kevin Gaines spent 40 years in fire service, including the last six leading the Morongo Fire Department.
Morongo Fire Engineer Jason Carrizosa has been promoted as his replacement.

MORONGO INDIAN RESERVATION, Calif. – After serving six years with the Morongo Fire Department, Fire Chief Kevin Gaines has hung up his helmet, marking the end of a distinguished career that began 40 years ago in CAL FIRE, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians announced this week.

Morongo Fire Department Engineer / ALS Coordinator Jason Carrizosa has been named the new chief. Carrizosa, an 11-year veteran of the department, is a Morongo Tribal Member and grew up on the Morongo Reservation.

“Working for Morongo has been extremely fulfilling and I’m very proud of the strides that the Morongo Fire Department has made over the past six years with the support of a Tribal Council who is very committed to advancing public safety,” Gaines said. “I will miss the members of my department and the many tribal members I have come to know over the years. I know Jason will do an amazing job as the department continues to move forward.”

“Working for Morongo has been extremely fulfilling and I’m very proud of the strides that the Morongo Fire Department has made over the past six years with the support of a Tribal Council who is very committed to advancing public safety,” Gaines said. “I will miss the members of my department and the many tribal members I have come to know over the years. I know Jason will do an amazing job as the department continues to move forward.” 

Gaines spent 34 years with CAL FIRE before joining Morongo Fire in 2015. At Morongo, Gaines helped strengthen the Advanced Life Support (ALS) and paramedic programs, brought on new state-of-the-art firefighting equipment and oversaw the department’s response to major incidents all across the San Gorgonio Pass, including the 33,000-acre Apple Fire in 2020. Under Gaines’ leadership, Morongo firefighters helped battle destructive wildland fires across California, such as the Woolsey Fire, Carr Fire and Camp Fire.

Gaines was integral in cultivating the tribe’s strong mutual aid relationships with surrounding emergency service agencies in addition to directing efforts to protect Morongo residents and the tribe’s environmental, cultural and economic resources during emergency incidents.

“We are truly grateful to Chief Gaines who served Morongo with the highest levels of professionalism and demonstrated extraordinary leadership, expertise and compassion during critical incidents,” said Morongo Tribal Chairman Robert Martin. “As we wish Chief Gaines the best in his well-earned retirement, we are excited to welcome our new fire chief, Jason Carrizosa, who will continue to grow the department’s legacy for protecting life and property across the region.”

A Banning High School graduate, Carrizosa holds an undergraduate degree in business and marketing from Culver-Stockton College in Missouri, where he played collegiate baseball. He played rookie ball for the Kansas City Royals before returning home and graduating from Moreno Valley College’s fire academy.

“Having grown up on the Morongo reservation, it means the world to me to accept this position, which will allow me to protect the safety of my fellow tribal members and our neighbors in surrounding communities,” Carrizosa said. “I have some big shoes to fill, and I have immense respect for everything Chief Gaines accomplished to strengthen our department. I intend to continue along that path.”

The Morongo Fire Department, which was formed in the 1950s as a team of volunteer firefighters, is now made up of 24 full-time staff. From its inception, the department has responded to emergencies on the reservation, as well as in neighboring cities and across California.

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Morongo Presents Over $128,000 to Support Local Youth

Photographer

Casino’s partnership with its patrons transforms a nationwide shortage of coins into an opportunity to help the Boys and Girls Clubs of the San Gorgonio Pass.

MORONGO CASINO RESORT & SPA – Thanks to the generosity of its guests, the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa presented a $128,643 check to the Boys and Girls Clubs of the San Gorgonio Pass to support the organization’s vital community youth programs.

Due to the nationwide coin shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses across the country – including casinos like Morongo – have had limited access to quarters, nickels, dimes, and even pennies. To help alleviate the national strain, Morongo launched a program in July offering its guests a chance to donate the spare change from their winnings to charity, and thousands did.

“We are simply overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from our guests during these challenging times to help local youth through Morongo’s community coin donation program,” said Morongo’s Tribal Chairman Robert Martin. “We want to thank all of our guests who participated in this effort to support local families and children who receive services from the Boys and Girls Clubs of the San Gorgonio Pass.”

Amy Herr, the executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the San Gorgonio Pass, said the funds will be used to help operate education support and other programs offered by the organization.

“We are beyond grateful for the generosity of Morongo’s guests, and for the casino’s innovation in turning a nationwide coin shortage into a positive that is benefiting local children during these critical times,” Herr said. “Once again, Morongo has stepped up for local youth, and we are very thankful.”

In October, Morongo raised $60,000 for the Boys and Girls Clubs at the 24th Annual Morongo Charity Golf Tournament, held at the Morongo Golf Club at Tukwet Canyon.

Photo Caption: Boys and Girls Clubs Board Chair Phillip Hutchins (left to right), Morongo Tribal Vice Chair James Siva, Boys and Girls Clubs Executive Director Amy Herr and Richard St. Jean, Chief Operating Officer of the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa.

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